As Friends Fall Off, Filner’s ‘Out’ Becoming Clearer

As Friends Fall Off, Filner’s ‘Out’ Becoming Clearer

Photo by Sam Hodgson

Politifest 2013. From left: Mark Kersey, Toni Atkins, Todd Gloria, Scott Lewis, Jan Goldsmith, Lorena Gonzalez and Kevin Faulconer

During our panel at Politifest, Saturday, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said something I kept meaning to go back to.

He said he would be pushing hard on Mayor Bob Filner as lawsuits went forward. The city, you see, is currently suing its mayor. But then he said something else.

“We will be aggressive. And to the extent it is appropriate under the law and the facts, he’s going to be held totally responsible. He’s got a lot of legal problems and they are mounting. But he will be given a way out,” Goldsmith said.

In the crowd listening was Port Commissioner Bob Nelson. He had helped Filner raise money during his campaign for mayor.

Filner had called Nelson earlier in the week, asking for advice about whether he could survive a recall. Nelson said he could not.

But the day after Politifest, Nelson typed out a letter to Filner, asking him to resign.

“I told him that, as best I could tell, his policy agenda was absolutely stalled with no real hope of resurrection and that I was also concerned about his health,” Nelson told me Wednesday.

The city attorney’s remarks made Nelson think, he said.

“At Politifest, Jan Goldsmith made a comment that, to me, seemed to be as direct an offer of negotiation as I could ever reasonably expect a public official to make. I took those words to be a very public offer to Bob to bring this to a close,” Nelson said.

So what did the city attorney mean? I asked him.

“We are going to litigate hard. I wanted folks to know, however, that we’re not just fighting for the sake of fighting, we’re going to give him an opportunity to end it,” Goldsmith said.

He declined to talk about what a settlement with the mayor might look like, but he said it’s common in civil conflicts involving warring insiders of a corporation to secure the resignation of key people as part of a solution. He said the decision would be made by the City Council and Gloria Allred, the attorney for Irene McCormack, the mayor’s former communication director and, of course, Filner and his lawyer.

I asked whether Goldsmith might consider asking the City Council to pay Filner’s legal fees were he to resign. The cost could become backbreaking. A lawyer told Liam Dillon it all could cost Filner as much as $500,000.

Combined with his recent decision to foot the bill for his travel to France, this has been a scary month for Filner’s finances.

Would helping him avoid financial devastation be enough to cause the mayor to resign?

Maybe if combined with the other shoes falling.

For its part, the public shaming continues unabated.  Wednesday, CNN dropped one of the most devastating stories of this whole saga.

At the very least, CNN proved that the mayor, as a congressman and candidate for mayor last year, called a rape victim, told her he loved her and asked her out just after meeting her at a gathering to support rape victims in the military. This is recorded audio.

That’s, again, the minimum indisputable fact pulled out of their brutal piece. Harsher allegations were peppered throughout the rest of the report.

And that brings up a steady feature of this Filner scandal. It’s the indisputable facts and his own explanations and admissions that add a backbone to the scandal that’s only getting stronger.

At the very least, what’s emerging is a perspective of him many of us didn’t know. He was pursuing an incredible number of women.

At Politifest, I asked Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez what she knew about Filner before he was elected. After all, she can take as much credit as anyone for getting him elected. His campaign was a mess but labor and activists, many fueled by fury at other things on the ballot, pushed him over the top.

“We knew that Bob Filner was a single man, who asked a lot of women out on dates. That’s not illegal. Was he creepy? Sure,” she said.

There may be some who are still weighing whether this “creepy” at some point crossed over to illegal, hostile and completely unacceptable.

But here again, remember, the mayor says what he did was “inexcusable.” And a lot of folks aren’t excusing it.

Filner is a professor of history. I would bet he knows full well that no San Diego mayor has ever been recalled.

He does not want to be the first, and that has to be on his mind. He’s asking friends like Nelson about it. When Nelson says he talked to the mayor, the nascent recall effort was nothing.

Now it has been professionalized. Some of the best-known local political consultants and fundraisers are on board. As local pollster John Nienstedt put it, the recall effort just went from goofy to great.

The ingredients for his departure may take a while to coalesce. But the mixing has begun.

Update: I misunderstood Nelson during our interview, as pointed out in the comments below. He said he told Filner he could not survive a recall and I’ve updated that part of the text of this piece.

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Scott Lewis

Scott Lewis

I'm Scott Lewis, the CEO of Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you'd like at scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0527 and follow me on Twitter (it's a blast!): @vosdscott.

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20 comments
Don Wood
Don Wood

What it sounds like Goldsmith is planning to do is run up the city's legal bills doing his investigation, knowing that if Filner loses the lawsuit against him, the city council has already filed a cross complaint and would try to recoup those costs from Filner personally. But Goldsmith is more than willing to dump all those costs on city taxpayers if Filner would agree to resign. The people, including media pundits, who are after Filner's scalp don't give a darn about the good of the city. They would happily run this city into bankruptcy if that was what it took to get rid of Bob Filner. This is San Diego politics at its dirtiest. Chicago has nothing on America's crookest city.

Don Wood
Don Wood subscriber

What it sounds like Goldsmith is planning to do is run up the city's legal bills doing his investigation, knowing that if Filner loses the lawsuit against him, the city council has already filed a cross complaint and would try to recoup those costs from Filner personally. But Goldsmith is more than willing to dump all those costs on city taxpayers if Filner would agree to resign. The people, including media pundits, who are after Filner's scalp don't give a darn about the good of the city. They would happily run this city into bankruptcy if that was what it took to get rid of Bob Filner. This is San Diego politics at its dirtiest. Chicago has nothing on America's crookest city.

Stephen Merrill
Stephen Merrill

Using the City's money to further Goldsmith's personal goal is a felony. The scheme you suggest is illegal. Goldsmith is in fantasyland if he believes Filner is in legal trouble. He's got publicity problems, but so far there is one unsigned legal complaint, unsupported by any witnesses or evidence. None of the "witnesses", trotted forward by a heavy breathing press, have any relevance to the case. The City will pay his fees while Filner wins the case, without more evidence.

Bob Nelson
Bob Nelson subscribermember

I can't fault any of your criticism. My comments were confessedly a mishmash of Greek and Roman versions, Aeschylus, Sophocles, etc. I do not pretend any expertise in the Classics and apologize to those devoted to them. I will never again try to remind people these works even exist. After all, we have HBO.

David Hall
David Hall subscriber

Whether you agree with Bob Nelson or not regarding the need for Filner to resign, you have to laugh at the irony of him using "The Eumenides" in this way. He would be well served to go back and reread that play.

Bob Nelson
Bob Nelson

First, the Voice staff is doing a great job following multiple stories with limited resources. To be clear, however, what I told Scott was that Bob Filner sought my professional analysis of his ability to survive a recall, which I told him was zero. He neither asked nor did I characterize the viability of a recall signature effort. This interview with Scott was tough for me; 40 years in the Arena have made me loathe to ever abandon a friend in time of trouble. But this is different. As Scott correctly reports, I believe this city of 1.3 million is leaderless at a time of great opportunity. As each woman who has experienced pain comes forward, she must relive that pain and I am sure it must be stirring painful memories for many more, regardless of when, where, or from whom they encountered similar experiences. Civil rights hero US Representative John Lewis (D-GA) was in town for Comic-Con over the weekend, signing his graphic novel, "March." Lewis has been a 20 year friend of Mayor Filner, with whom he served in Congress, and for whom he helped raise funds for the Mayoral campaign. What a sad twist of fate to see this bright new chapter for Representative Lewis contrasted here against the tragic play simultaneously unfolding in the life and career of Bob Filner. Before Bob entered politics, he was a college history instructor. He undoubtedly recalls Aeschylus' "Furies." Bob's medical and psychological problems have let loose those Furies who pursue him now. It is time for this tragic play to end, to turn the page and for San Diego to have a new chapter of leadership. To my friends, Laura Fink, Irene McCormack Jackson, Joyce Gattas and others, I commend lines 904-909 from Athena to The Furies: "Let it come out of the ground, out of the sea's water,/and from the high air make the waft of gentle gales/wash over the country in full sunlight, and the seed/and stream of the soil's yield and of the grazing beasts/be strong and never fail our people as time goes,/and make the human seed be kept alive." So it was for Athens, let us now hope it can be so for San Diego.

Bob Nelson
Bob Nelson subscribermember

First, the Voice staff is doing a great job following multiple stories with limited resources. To be clear, however, what I told Scott was that Bob Filner sought my professional analysis of his ability to survive a recall, which I told him was zero. He neither asked nor did I characterize the viability of a recall signature effort. This interview with Scott was tough for me; 40 years in the Arena have made me loathe to ever abandon a friend in time of trouble. But this is different. As Scott correctly reports, I believe this city of 1.3 million is leaderless at a time of great opportunity. As each woman who has experienced pain comes forward, she must relive that pain and I am sure it must be stirring painful memories for many more, regardless of when, where, or from whom they encountered similar experiences. Civil rights hero US Representative John Lewis (D-GA) was in town for Comic-Con over the weekend, signing his graphic novel, "March." Lewis has been a 20 year friend of Mayor Filner, with whom he served in Congress, and for whom he helped raise funds for the Mayoral campaign. What a sad twist of fate to see this bright new chapter for Representative Lewis contrasted here against the tragic play simultaneously unfolding in the life and career of Bob Filner. Before Bob entered politics, he was a college history instructor. He undoubtedly recalls Aeschylus' "Furies." Bob's medical and psychological problems have let loose those Furies who pursue him now. It is time for this tragic play to end, to turn the page and for San Diego to have a new chapter of leadership. To my friends, Laura Fink, Irene McCormack Jackson, Joyce Gattas and others, I commend lines 904-909 from Athena to The Furies: "Let it come out of the ground, out of the sea's water,/and from the high air make the waft of gentle gales/wash over the country in full sunlight, and the seed/and stream of the soil's yield and of the grazing beasts/be strong and never fail our people as time goes,/and make the human seed be kept alive." So it was for Athens, let us now hope it can be so for San Diego.

tom fengler
tom fengler

In reference to Filner's uphill battle, The Dude's bowling ball is the rock of Sisyphus.

tom fengler
tom fengler

In reference to Filner's uphill battle, The Dude's bowling ball is the rock of Sisyphus.

Brian Peterson
Brian Peterson

Well, Pat, let's give Mr. Nelson credit for even trying to use a quote from the Classics to explain San Diego politics. Usually, the best I can do is quote from a drunk, or drug-addled, twentieth century author or perhaps a line from "The Big Lebowski"...(I am the walrus.)

Pat Flannery
Pat Flannery

David Hall: If he ever read it in the first place. I happen to have taken Classical Greek and Latin for five years back in the days when an Irish High School was essentially a junior seminary. We didn't do much science or modern languages but we sure knew the Classics.

Pat Flannery
Pat Flannery

Mr. Nelson: you say "Bob's medical and psychological problems have let loose those Furies who pursue him now." If you really knew Aeschylus plays, particularly the one in which he used the "Furies" as characters, you would have known that the play is called "Eumenides" not the "Furies". In fact he doesn't even use the name "Furies", which is a later Roman name given to women who are irrationally vengeful and hateful. The female characters you refer to were three "hideous women" depicted as "ugly, winged women with hair, arms and waists entwined with poisonous serpents". Dramatists have used them to depict ugly irrational vengefulness, e.g. Shakespeare "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned". As for your pulling from http://www.bookrags.com/notes/eum/QUO.html Quote 28: "Let it come out of the ground, out of the sea's water,/and from the high air make the waft of gentle gales/wash over the country in full sunlight, and the seed/and stream of the soil's yield and of the grazing beasts/be strong and never fail our people as time goes,/and make the human seed be kept alive." Lines 904-909 That was an appeal by the goddess Athena character, who in the play has come to the defense of the falsely accused Orestes, begging the "Furies" not to devastate Athens and its surrounds, which they have threatened to do if they are not allowed to dispense their vengeful justice their own way without a trial. The play ends with Athena prevailing over the Furies in a fair public trial. The defeated "Furies" became the "Eumenides" (the title of the play), which means "gracious goddesses" who henceforth, in the progressive democracy that was ancient Athens, characterized kindness and good will. You would do well Mr. Nelson to read the whole play and reflect on its message and the desirability of San Diego becoming a progressive democracy like ancient Athens, where justice and the rule of law prevails over irrational vengeful prejudice. This indeed is a pivotal moment in San Diego history: will it become a progressive democracy like ancient Athens or regress to rule by furies. The Eumenides Summaryhttp://www.bookrags.com/notes/eum/QUO.htmlThe Eumenides Quotes Quote 1: "May all [gods]/grant me that this of all my entrances shall be/the best by far. If there are any Hellenes here/let them draw lots, so enter, as the custom is./My prophesy is only as the god may guide."

Scott Lewis
Scott Lewis

Apologies, I misheard you as saying the recall was a zero or otherwise negligent. I should have double backed. I'll see if we can update.

Brian Peterson
Brian Peterson subscriber

Well, Pat, let's give Mr. Nelson credit for even trying to use a quote from the Classics to explain San Diego politics. Usually, the best I can do is quote from a drunk, or drug-addled, twentieth century author or perhaps a line from "The Big Lebowski"...(I am the walrus.)

Bob Nelson
Bob Nelson subscribermember

Not a problem. SLEEP!!!

Scott Lewis
Scott Lewis administrator

Apologies, I misheard you as saying the recall was a zero or otherwise negligent. I should have double backed. I'll see if we can update.

Pat Flannery
Pat Flannery

I agree Brian. In the spirit of Eumenides, the gracious goddesses of democracy, I embrace Mr. Nelson with all kindness and good will... (I am a hugger).

Bob Nelson
Bob Nelson

I can't fault any of your criticism. My comments were confessedly a mishmash of Greek and Roman versions, Aeschylus, Sophocles, etc. I do not pretend any expertise in the Classics and apologize to those devoted to them. I will never again try to remind people these works even exist. After all, we have HBO.

David Hall
David Hall

Whether you agree with Bob Nelson or not regarding the need for Filner to resign, you have to laugh at the irony of him using "The Eumenides" in this way. He would be well served to go back and reread that play.